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''Rakher Upobas'': A Hindu Festival o...
Dhaka
By zakir hossain chowdhury
31 Oct 2014

"Whenever you are in danger, whether in ocean or in war or in the wild, remember Me. I shall save you. You may not know Me. You may not realize who I am. Just pray to Me with a little touch of your heart and I shall free you from gripping sorrows and miseries." -- Baba Lokenath (1730-1890)

Every year, in the month of Kartik on the Bengali calendar (late October through early November of the Gregorian calendar), members of Bangladesh’s Hindu community come together to celebrate the “Rakher Upobas” prayer to the god Lokenath Brahmachari, who is said to embody love in the Hindu tradition. At the Shri Shri Lokenath Brahmachari Ashram near Dhaka, men and women light lamps and candles and bring offerings of fruit, sweets, nuts and cow’s milk. Devotees pray to Baba Lokenath to save their family and dear ones from curses and diseases like cholera and pox; they observe a strict fast and remain sitting absorbed in prayer until the flames burn-out. Members of other faiths are welcome and often present at the prayers, though for more cultural than spiritual reasons.

Lokenath Brahmachari was born to a Brahman (an elite caste reserved for spiritual service in the caste system) family on the birthdate of the Hindu Lord Krishna in 1730. At eleven, he ventured off to the woods with his guru to practice Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga. When he left, he is said to have lived a life of complete asceticism until reaching enlightenment at the age of 90, after which he traveled extensively through Afghanistan, Persia and Arabia, including making three pilgrimages to Mecca. At the age of 136 he is said to have settled in a small town near Dhaka to tend to people who came seeking his teachings and blessings.

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Freediving kas turkey 01
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
30 Sep 2014

Kaputas beach is one of Kas' main tourist attractions due to the colour of its beautiful warm water and pleasant sandy beach.

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Underwater High: Turkey's Female Free...
Kas
By Mark_Esplin
29 Sep 2014

Kas, Turkey
September 29, 2014

As a child Sahika Ercumen had acute asthma. Her breathing difficulties were so bad that until age twelve she couldn’t do any physical activities and spent most of her time sat at home. Determined to confront her illness she went to her local swimming club and jumped into the water.

To everyone’s surprise Sahika was a natural swimmer. Like many young girls she had imagined life as a mermaid and her newfound love for water ultimately changed her life. “I felt I was diving in another world, in a dream world. It was so relaxing, so nice underwater. I hadn’t played sports until I was 12 years-old because of a sickness, so it was really a miracle for me.”

The swimming coach asked her to hold her breath and swim underwater. In her first attempt she out performed the club professionals and knew she wanted to dedicate her life to the sport. Through intense training, her physical strength improved, as did her immune system, until she was no longer affected by her asthma.

Sahika is now the leading female free diver with six world records including the women’s deepest return dive on a single breath – an astonishing 91 meters.

Sahika also now trains and mentors aspiring new freedivers in workshops in the Turkish coastal town of Kas.

Freediving is an extreme sport in which participants swim for long distances underwater to exceptional depths, or for long periods of time, on a single breath without the use of scuba gear. Unsurprisingly it requires great physical and mental strength as Sahika explains, “After 20-30 meters your lungs are the size of a football, as the pressure increases they get smaller and smaller. By 30-40 meters your lungs are like tennis balls… Your veins too are getting smaller and your heart rate drops. The blood circulation moves to only your heart, brain and vital organs – there’s a big change [to your body].”

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Freediving kas turkey 07
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
29 Sep 2014

Free Diving world record holder Sahika Ercumen during a training dive in Kas, Antalya, Southern Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 09
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
29 Sep 2014

Free Diving record holder Sahika Ercumen surfaces after a training dive out at sea near Kas in Antalya, Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 12
Kas
By Mark_Esplin
28 Sep 2014

Free dive enthusiasts check out the action below as they wait their turn to dive during a workshop lead by Sahika Ercumen.

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Freediving kas turkey 02
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

Free Diving world record holder Sahika Ercumen leads a breathing workshop in Kas, Antalya, Southern Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 03
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

A student relaxes during a yoga session as part of a free diving workshop lead by Sahika Ercumen in Kas, Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 04
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

Sahika Ercumen teaches breathing exercises during a free diving workshop in Kas, Antalya, Southern Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 05
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

A student laughs during a breathing workshop lead by free diving record holder Sahika Ercumen in Kas, Antalya, Southern Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 06
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

Though well known throughout Turkey, Kas remains less popular with foreign tourists than the near-by towns of Bodrum and Antalya city.

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Freediving kas turkey 11
Kas
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

Sahika Ercumen instructs students during a breathing workshop in Kas, Southern turkey.

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African Yoga 16
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Sarah Neilesa, 21, during one of her first yoga classes, as teacher, at the Nairobi Aviation College. Sarah is affected by albinism but she feel empowered through yoga. "Thanks to yoga," she says, "I've learned to appreciate how I am and to love myself; I can teach and inspire people." The yoga pose is "Dhanurasana," or Bow Pose.

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African Yoga 15
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Sarah Neilesa (21), during one of her first yoga classes, as teacher, at the Nairobi Aviation College. Sarah is affected by albinism but she feel empowered through yoga. "Thanks to yoga," she says, "I've learned to appreciate how I am and to love myself; I can teach and inspire people." The yoga pose is "Padahastasana," or Hand Under Foot Pose.

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African Yoga 26
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Benta Atieno, 19, on the way to teach a yoga class in Kibera, which is considered to be one of the largest slums in Africa. Benta started the course to become a yoga teacher, with the Africa Yoga Project, after finishing dress-making school in 2009. Before starting yoga, she said she was very lazy and unsure about herself, even about making dresses. She said she was feeling heavy and suffering after walking for a short distance. "I was also very shy," she recalls, "and at the first lesson I was even too shy to say my name and I covered my eyes."

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African Yoga 17
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Sarah Neilesa, 21, helps a student during one of her first yoga classes, as teacher, at the Nairobi Aviation College. Sarah is suffers from albinism, but she feel empowered through yoga.

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African Yoga 18
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

A game played during a yoga class held by Susan Njeri, 23, and assisted by Benta Atieno, 19, in Kibera Hamlets School. Susan started yoga after high school when she didn't have enough money to continue her education. "I really like yoga," she adds, "because it allows me to calm down when I am angry, through meditation, and because it allows me to connect to the community. Seeing how many children we can make smile with our lessons brings me happiness." A selection of standing poses, stretching and games are practiced in the school. The exercises are made easier because children are often malnourished.The yoga pose is "Vrksasana" or the Tree pose.

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African Yoga 1
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Children during a yoga class at the Hafra Hope Academy in the Kangemi slum. The yoga pose is "Parsvottanasana" or Intense Side Stretch Pose.

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African Yoga 29
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Margaret Njeri, 23, in her apartment in Kariobangi, Nairobi, breast-feeds her daughter Kinndli, named after her mentor. Margaret was an acrobat before starting the Africa Yoga Project program to become a yoga teacher in 2007. "It was not easy to earn a living with acrobatics," she recalls, "it was easy to injure yourself and the money was very little, so often, we were doing petty crimes." She believed that yoga was a religion, but when she finally tried it for the first time, she really liked it because it is both physical and has a strong meditation aspect to it.

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African Yoga 23
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Margaret Njeri, 23, and her assistant Catherine Nyambura, 20, are waiting to leave after a class in the Langata Women Prison.

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African Yoga 28
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

James Nweu, 35, watches out the window while detainees relax in Savasana (or Corpse Pose), at the end of a yoga class in the Youth Correction Centre of Kamiti prison. For James, yoga is a way of life. Beside teaching Ashtanga yoga, he is a choreographer and teaches design at the University.

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African Yoga 25
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

These are detainees in "Parsvottanasana," or Intense Side Stretch Pose, during a yoga class in the Youth Correction Centre of Kamiti prison. This is the largest prison in Nairobi. In this centre, boys between 17 and 22 years old spend a maximum of four months here. Most of the charges are drug robberies.

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African Yoga 14
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Sarah Neilesa, 21, during one of her first yoga classes, as teacher, at the Nairobi Aviation College. Sarah suffers from albinism but she feels empowered through yoga. "Thanks to yoga," she says, "I've learned to appreciate how I am and to love myself; I can teach and inspire people." The yoga pose is "Garudasana," or Eagle Pose. Empowering people is at the core of the NGO Africa Yoga Project (AYP). Sarah is one of the 52 teachers of AYP. They teach in prisons, schools, centers for special needs, HIV/AIDS support groups, deaf schools and rural villages.

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African Yoga 24
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Margaret Njeri, 23, perform an acrobatic trick in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi that is predominantly inhabited by Somali immigrants. It is known also as "Little Mogadishu." Margaret was an acrobat before starting the Africa Yoga Project program to become a yoga teacher in 2007. "It was not easy to earn a living with acrobatics," she recalls, "it was easy to injure yourself and money was very little, so often, we were doing petty crimes." She believed that yoga was a religion, but when she finally tried it for the first time, she really liked that it was both physical but has a strong meditation part to it as well.

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African Yoga 21
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

A female prisoners stretch during a yoga class in the Langata Women Prison. Some of the prisoners attending the class are still awaiting trial. Since many of the women are HIV positive, the teachers practice a milder form of yoga combining stretching and games. As a prisoner, Sharon said, "Even if sometimes I am too tired to do it, when I do it, I don't feel neglected but I feel loved."

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African Yoga 30
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

James Nweu, 35, shows a cycle of yoga poses during a yoga class in the Youth Correction Centre of Kamiti prison, the largest prison in Nairobi. For James, yoga is a way of life. Beside teaching Ashtanga yoga, he is a choreographer and teaches design at the University.

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African Yoga 13
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Samson Muhalia, 53, outside his apartment in Kangemi, Nairobi.

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African Yoga 19
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Lilian Adhiambu, 27, right, chats with Faith Kwamboka, 32, left, while waiting for a Skype call from her mentor, a yoga teacher located in the United States. Mentors pay $100 a month to their student. While this money allows them to focus on their yoga studies, in exchange they have to offer 5 free classes a week, called Outreaches, in needy communities of Nairobi. Lilian was born deaf and she has practiced yoga since she was two years old. She teaches in several schools for the deaf to children between 7 and 13 years old. Faith was an acrobatic instructor and a yoga teacher since 4 years. She's used to practice with deaf and blind people. Yoga brings me union and love, she says.

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African Yoga 10
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Samson Muhalia, 53, with his niece in his apartment in Kangemi, Nairobi. He is preparing himself to go teaching outreach classes in the Kangemi slum. Samson worked for UN-Habitat for 21 years before becoming a yoga teacher. He used his knowledge in construction to help the Africa Yoga Project to build different structures. Sixteen years ago, he injured his back after a car accident. When he joined the Africa Yoga project, he created some yoga poses that little by little healed his back. He saw many people changing positively because of yoga. He said what he really likes about yoga is that brings people together and teaches them how live together - it makes people share and discuss.

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African Yoga 22
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Benta Atieno, 19, teaches a yoga class in a school in Kibera, considered to be one of the largest slums in Africa. Benta started the course to become a yoga teacher, with the Africa Yoga Project, after finishing dress-making school in 2009. Before starting yoga, she was very lazy and unsure about herself, even about making dresses. She says she was feeling heavy and suffering after walking a short distance. "I was also very shy," she recalls, "and at the first lesson I was even too shy to say my name and I covered my eyes." A selection of standing poses, stretching and games are practiced in the school.

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African Yoga 31
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Rufus, a deaf instrunctor, teaches a lesson at the Shine Centre in Nairobi. The centre, inaugurated in 2013, host the offices of Africa Yoga Project and allows yoga teachers to give private and public lessons. The yoga teacher are responsible for its maintenance through shift rotation, where everybody is called to contribute.

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African Yoga 27
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Benta Atieno, 19, poses with the dresses she created in her room/workshop in Kibera, where she lives with her sister. She started the course to become a yoga teacher, with the Africa Yoga Project, after finishing dress-making school in 2009. Before starting yoga, she said she was very lazy and unsure about herself, even about making dresses. She said she was feeling heavy and suffering after walking for a short distance. "I was also very shy," she recalls, "and at the first lesson I was even too shy to say my name and I covered my eyes."

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African Yoga 3
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Samson Muhalia, 53, teaches a class at the Hafra Hope Academy in the Kangemi slum. The hall is used as a church on Sundays. Samson worked for UN-Habitat for 21 years before becoming a yoga teacher. He used his knowledge in construction to help Africa Yoga Project to build different structures. Sixtenn years ago, he injured his back after a car accident. When he joined Africa Yoga project he found that some yoga poses were little by little healing his back. He saw many people changing positively because of yoga. He said, "What I really like about yoga," he says, "is that brings people together and teach them how live together, it makes people share and discuss." The yoga pose is Virabhadrasana I or Warrior I.